I was asked to share with sales managers some of the common desking best practices I’ve encountered across the country. These are things that, when adopted, should help you help your sales people be more effective. I know that most of these things are already being done in your store but it’ll still be a useful review and you may even pick up one or two new ideas.
I won’t get into the write up process itself because that varies significantly from dealership to dealership. Of course, everyone in your store should be on the same page as far as write up procedures are concerned and that’s something that should be covered in your training meetings at least once a quarter if not more often. Having said that, here’s a few of the best desking ideas:
1) THE DEAL IS EVERYTHING.
This means that when a salesperson comes to the desk (sales office) with a deal…EVERYTHING else takes a back seat. And I mean everything. The phone call gets cut short (yes, even if it’s the boss on the other line)(heck, especially if it’s the boss on the other line! Don’t you want your dealer to know you know what he’s hired you for?), all other superfluous conversations cease, the ad stops getting written, etc. All other distractions in the sales office need to be eliminated. We need to give our salesperson our undivided attention…period. After all, that is what our main job is, right? To help our sales staff sell more cars is job one, isn’t it?
Also, watch how quickly and dramatically the morale in your dealership improves when everyone realizes that making deals is the most important thing to you. I know you’re probably saying that it already is, but ask yourself right now, what have your actions lately been telling everyone? Believe me, it’s very discouraging to a salesperson to have to wait for their manager, their main ally in battle, to “finish something else” when they finally come to the desk for assistance. And there’s nothing more encouraging than seeing your manager put the rest of the world on temporary hold to help you make your deal!
2) STAY POSITIVE.
Selling cars is hard. Most customers are defensive at first, some are down right rude, and many transactions start out somewhat confrontational rather than collaborative. Remember why most of us wanted off the floor in the first place?! So, our sales people don’t need someone else to fear. They don’t need “tough love”, they don’t need a kick in the ass! At least not at desking time. What they do need at this time is someone to encourage them, to lift them up, and to give them hope. What they need is someone who “sees the deal happening”, who’s continually thinking of ways to make the deal happen, and who is focused solely on helping them accomplish this.
We definitely don’t want our sales people to be reluctant to bring us a deal, any deal for that matter. There’s nothing more demoralizing than coming to work not knowing who’s going to hand you your head first, your customer or your manager. As a general manager, I was fond of telling my sales managers that I knew we’d make more deals if I just could replace their magic markers with cheerleader pom poms. I even toyed with the idea of buying them unifor…but that’s a story for another time.
So, when desking, we need to focus only on what’s gone right so far and we need to help build our salesperson’s confidence. There will be plenty of time later to redirect or reprimand, if need be. Make sure that what we think is just "setting a fire under their ass" isn't really just setting their ass on fire. Stay positive and upbeat!
3) DESKING IS NOT A TRAINING OPPORTUNITY.
In front of a paying audience, in the middle of a major surgical procedure, or with two minutes left on the game clock, these are NOT the times to “practice”. Preparation is the key to success, that’s true. But when it’s crunch time, we need to focus on the job at hand. Either we are prepared for it or not.
The same holds true for desking deals. Even if our salesperson has botched the entire transaction, now is not the time to “fix” them. We already screwed up by not having them “game ready” beforehand. Let’s not compound our error by taking our eye off the ball! We need to focus on ways to make the deal happen. Our sales person needs us to focus on ways to make the deal happen. Our owner pays us at this critical time to focus on making the deal happen. We missed our opportunity to train them ahead of time, just don’t make the same mistake twice. Make a mental (or written) note of what to cover with that particular associate, and after the heat of battle, after emotions have subsided, debrief them. Then, schedule a time to train, and then train them.
Remember, the deal is made or lost, gross profit is built up or eroded, based on what we have done before the customer shows up!
4) HAVE A BOOK OF CLOSES.
Every sales office has a current invoice book, a current new vehicle inventory list, a current pre-owned vehicle list, and a current lender rate/program book. Some of us have it available digitally, some of us have it available to us in book form, but all of us have these at our fingertips. Why? Because this information is too massive, and way too critical, to simply rely on our memories in order to take advantage of the opportunities.
Isn’t closing just as important? Instead of hoping the customer comes back, let’s make sure we use everything at our disposal to help us earn their business right now. It’s important to note that no one is smart enough to remember everything they know. So, put together a book of closes. Use tabs and section it off for each specific objection and each specific closing scenario. And remember to update it as often as you update the other aforementioned books. You’ll close more deals with this resource.
5) HAVE A DOWN PAYMENT LIST.
How many of us have heard this one…cash down equals gross profit? Have you had enough of the “$0 down delivers” ads? I know I have. How about this idea, have a list of down payment options available to us. Now, I know that some of these ideas won’t work for some stores. So, you may want to touch base with your boss to make sure but here’s some ideas that others have used.
Some stores accept old computers, bikes, skiing equipment, boats, trailers, ATVs, racing equipment, musical instruments, jewelry, time share vacations, etc. At a workshop in Tennessee, I was told that dealerships there occasionally take in horses as down payments. Talk about horse trading! Basically, anything that can be resold could be used as a down payment IF you and your store are willing to go through the extra effort. Many cities or counties require an additional/different kind of resale license for these items and and some require some kind of "street buy" form to avoid selling stolen goods. Be sure to check with your local authorities to see what they may require. Some stores also accept hold checks and pick up payments.
Ask your customer if they have available to them , stocks or bonds they could liquidate, relatives or friends they could borrow from, 401K programs they could borrow from, pay day loans they could use, or other lines of credit they could tap into (Use this last one cautiously as it could violate your dealer’s lender agreement.).
6) KEEP NOTES ON YOUR LENDERS.
Really! A friend of mine, Steve Hiatt, who owned Mountain Mitsubishi in Tacoma Washington, stole this one from the movie Boiler Room, where they used “rebuttal indexes” to overcome objections.
Do we know what our loan officers’ characteristics are? What makes the buyer tick and how we move them? Do we know who to go to when the down is big? When the debt to income needs to be ignored? When the credit file is thin or the credit wasn’t even reported to the bureau? Do we know what buyer has a propensity for particular types of deals? We need to keep an index book with each lender and each of the buyers in it. Write down who buys what, who has what authority and when to avoid the buyer. Steve said he used to beat his head against the wall, because the buyer would be agreeing with everything he said and then still not approve the deal. He would hear, “Great, but I still can’t buy it because my limit is $25K but I will go to my manager and ask them to approve it.”
ASK?! Did she just say she’d ask?! What do you think the fax came over with at 5:01 in the afternoon? Declined, of course! Steve had sold the wrong person and then depended on their skills to sell it to their manager. He told me he might as well have just hand selected his own firing squad. BANG!!
This tool will keep us from negotiating with a lender that doesn’t have the authority to buy the deal. Or maybe only a supervisor can overturn auto declines. Many lenders have caps on dollar amounts or internal scores that only senior buyers or credit managers can overturn.
We also need to get personal information on them. It is extremely helpful to note the buyers’ hobbies, interests, family, and background; building a little common ground is much easier that way. People, even buyers, don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. And, when the lender likes us, our deal’s approval odds go up. Way up.
I hope you will use these few desking ideas to your and your sales staff’s benefit. They’re really not all that difficult to put together and use. And even if they were, wouldn’t it still be worth it?
© 2016 by Michael D. Hargrove and Bottom Line Underwriters, Inc. All rights reserved.
Michael D. Hargrove is the founder and president of Bottom Line Underwriters Inc. and and My Success Company, which are success coaching firms serving the automotive industry for over two decades. You can find more of his work here: http://bluinc.com/free-stuff/articles/selling-skills/. He can be reached at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Amazon, or e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.